Critique of TSW Part 25b The Social Microcosm

Blog 20150107

Bill’s belief in free will interferes with his social analysis when he views the collapse of societies as a result of “self-destruction.”

I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are marked "BW: ". The quotes marked “TSW: “are from "The Scientific Worldview" and my comments are marked "[GB: ".

The Social Microcosm (Part 2 of 7)

TSW:  "... if microcosms did not completely diverge ... This amounts to a sharing of nearby spatial positions, a phenomenon otherwise known in social science as cooperation."

BW: Again, you fail to define terms. Competition is not the *opposite* of cooperation. Two or more competitors can cooperate on any number of things ... even sharing the same space for mutual convenience. There are all kinds of "competitions" from civil to barbaric. There are also wide ranges of cooperation, from voluntary to coerced. You never make any distinction, you just ramble on about microcosms, as though they were objectively defined entities, even after you've asserted that "cosms" are random, subjective classifications.

[GB: Again, first comes competition, then comes cooperation. It is especially instructive to see these two phenomena as opposites. We see this often among corporations that, after fierce competition (e.g., cut-throat price competition impoverishing all), negotiate some kind of sharing agreement for “mutual convenience” (i.e., survival), often followed by merger. You are correct in implying that there are an infinite number of kinds of competitions. I did not have time to discuss all of them. The short discussion was simply to illustrate how the univironmental concept can be used to understand how competition evolves into cooperation. We see this process after every new invention when there might be hundreds of producers (sorry about that, Mr. Ford and Mr. Osborne), cut-throat competition, a few small mergers, and finally a few really big ones. I experienced this personally as I observed the intense price competition that forced “family farms” to get bigger or go bankrupt. None of this was “voluntary” or had anything to do with “free will.”] 

TSW:  "People joined in social groups simply because they were "attracted" to each other. Of their own equally mysterious free will, they came to desire social collusion."

BW: Again, a superficial pot-shot at "free will", but there's no mystery in why people are attracted to others: they have things (objectives, situations, or views) in common. Whether they "desire social collusion" or not, every human is born into a family and they usually interact with other families. If the interaction is civil (whether that entails competition or cooperation), then they are attracted. If it's not, they fight. That's simple human history.

[GB: The main point of those statements was not to make a killing shot at free will, but to imply that the formation of social groups, like the formation of all microcosms, is the result of a push, not a pull. People come “to desire social collusion” through successful, fruitful interaction with other people. They don’t just miraculously wake up one morning and use their “free will” to begin colluding.]  

TSW:  "In one (classical mechanics), human cooperation was forced; in the other (systems philosophy), human cooperation was chosen."

BW: "Forced cooperation" is slavery, "voluntary cooperation" is trade. If determinism precludes free will, then there is no such thing as "voluntary" anything: people do whatever they do. In the absence of free will, determinism doesn't dictate cooperation any more than it dictates competition: whatever happens, just happens. In that scenario, whether we know *why* it happens or not doesn't matter; there can be no such thing as human "motives", except as necessary mental fabrications.

[GB: Hey, you are catching on! We don’t need no stinkin’ free will!]

TSW:  "Only [Neomechanics] could discover an adequate explanation of bonding in molecules or of cooperation in humans."

BW: The only "explanation" you offer is that things interact and change. Sometimes they combine, sometimes they don't. That's not an explanation of any chemical or human interaction, much less an identification of cause and effect.

[GB: Remember that neomechanics and univironmental determinism emphasize both the microcosm (inside) and the macrocosm (outside) as determinants of actions. The point of all this is not to determine cause and effect, but to elucidate how they can be discovered. It is a “worldview,” an approach on how to understand the universe, not an identification of every cause and effect.]

TSW:  "... bonding occurs when two microcosms reach a temporarily stable equilibrium distance ..."

BW: If they stick, they stick; if they don't, they don't. Until you define boundaries between two distinct objects, it's impossible to tell whether they will stick or not. Until you identify the unique properties of the objects, you can't predict what kind of spatial equilibrium they could or will achieve. Simply labeling them as "microcosms" seeking thermodynamic "least motion" provides none of that information and explains nothing.

[GB: “Least motion” explains everything, as claimed by Newton’s First Law of Motion. You are right that you need to “identify the unique properties” of objects, but that is only half of what you need to know. You also need to know “the unique properties” of the macrocosm. This is what we do in every scientific study. Want me to tell you about all of them?]

TSW:  "The bonds of cooperation and socialization ..."

BW: You seem to equate cooperation and a new term, out of the blue, called "socialization". Again, you don't define either word. Obviously, societies are individuals with many things in common, which facilitates cooperation and civility:

society (an)
1a. an enduring social group ... having common traditions, institutions, activities, and interests.

"Socialization" is a process of persuading or coercing an individual to conform with those social norms. Which method is used doesn't seem to matter to your "Neomechanical" analysis, since individuals are just colliding particles of mass. In that context, killing an "abnormal" person is just another way of achieving a new "social equilibrium" and motivating others to "cooperate" ... or else.

[GB: Huh? I thought the quote was pretty good and that the association between cooperation and socialization was not that hard to understand. I don’t see where I defined individuals as “just colliding particles of mass.” I defined individuals as microcosms, xyz portions of the universe. Don’t know where you ever got the idea that our existence as microcosms had anything to do with violence. That kind of stuff has happened, of course, but it didn’t have anything to do with whether we thought of ourselves as microcosms or not. In fact, it seems that most of the violent folks probably thought they and their victims had free will.] 

TSW:  "The lesson: complex systems never collapse merely because they are complex, but because their surroundings change."

BW: This seems at odds with your persistent assertion that BOTH micro/macro matter equally. In fact, a simple or complex "system" (a perspective you disdain) could collapse in any environment. All living things naturally "collapse" into death eventually, no matter what their surroundings. Societies regularly "collapse" because their normative traditions, institutions, or activities are *inherently* self-destructive.

[GB: That section explained how the universal mechanism of evolution, univironmental determinism, the observation that what happens to a portion of the universe is determined by the infinite matter in motion within and without can be used to understand how the microcosm and macrocosm interact to produce a particular effect. It is not true that a microcosm can “collapse in any environment.” Each microcosm exists for a time at the behest of its macrocosm. For instance, people who live in stable, healthy, safe environments live longer than those who live in unstable, unhealthy, unsafe environments. Living things die, not because they “collapse,” but because their various parts “diverge” via Newton’s First Law of Motion, as reiterated in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Life is not everlasting because all microcosms have porous boundaries that eventually allow complete disintegration and death to take place.

Your statement that “societies regularly "collapse" because their normative traditions, institutions, or activities are *inherently* self-destructive,” is completely false. Societies collapse due to macrocosmic actions. In the case of Rome and its transgressions against its neighbors, it was the invasion of rapidly multiplying really incensed barbarians. In the case of the USSR, it was economic penetration by the outside world. Extinctions occur, not because a particular microcosm has free will and thus becomes “*inherently* self-destructive,” but because the macrocosm no longer supports its existence.]

TSW:  "In sociology, as well as in other types of biology, the propaganda against synergism has sponsored a traditional overemphasis on the competitive aspects of evolution."
BW: The only problem with "synergism" is that nature doesn't engage in dualisms. Instruction or discovery may be aided by the consideration of a dialectic, but there is no "thesis" or "anti-thesis" in nature. Nature always does what it does, without considering any alternatives.
[GB: I stand by the quote. There are two aspects to evolution: competition and cooperation. I simply pointed out that the conventional view tends to favor competition over cooperation. We see this in neo-Darwinian biologists, such as Jerry Coyne, who deny group selection altogether. According to univironmental determinism, it actually is the survival of the fittest individual or group. In this regard, synergism is extremely important. It explains why groups (corporations?) often succeed where individuals do not (family farms?). Groups can perform feats that individuals cannot. One man cannot lift a 500-kg rock, but ten men can do so.]

Next: The Social Microcosm (Part 3 of 7)

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